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Being elected to office as a Republican in deep-blue Maryland is a challenging endeavor.
That challenge is further complicated by a down-ballot association with President Donald Trump’s often inflammatory rhetoric.
When Trump sparks media ire by making controversial or misleading remarks about undocumented immigrants, Democratic lawmakers and Black Lives Matter protestors — Republican candidates and officeholders at every level are often asked to respond to the remarks.
Maryland’s popular two-term GOP governor, Larry Hogan, has called Trump to task on several occasions such as when Trump made the arguably false claim that the Constitution gives the president power to order states shuttered by the coronavirus pandemic to reopen.
But Hogan has not gone as far as some Republicans in rebuking Trump. Former Republican National Committee chair and former Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele is openly supporting the candidacy of Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden. Other Republicans supporting Biden include former Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake and former Pennsylvania Rep. Charlie Dent.
Nevertheless, the vast majority of Republicans across the country-whether they are candidates or officeholders or both are supporting Trump’s re-election.
But in Maryland, where registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans by a near 2-1 margin and Hillary Clinton won more than 60% of the vote-the question of whether Republicans should align themselves with Trump is often complicated.
“In my district it’s helpful,” Del. Brian Chisholm (R-Anne Arundel) told MarylandReporter.com in a phone interview.
Chisholm added: “I think other Republican areas are more moderate. But in District 31B, especially in my Pasadena area-it’s helpful.”
Sen. Johnny Ray Salling (R-Baltimore County), who is running for Congress in the second district, said supporting the president can have both a positive and negative impact.
“I think it goes both ways. I think it helps me because I do have a lot of Trump supporters and I believe with the people that I meet with all the time-they support the president and the Republican Party. And at the same time, there’s a lot of people that don’t like him whatsoever. And so, it goes both ways.”
Salling added: “I just continue that path because I do support the president. But I think it goes both ways.”
Del. Neil Parrott (R-Washington), who is running for Congress in the sixth district, said he believes the Trump’s campaign’s upbeat message about rebuilding America will help Republican candidates.
“I think any candidate that’s on the side of renewing America, restoring America, rebuilding America and showing optimism that we can have global competitiveness-that our best days are ahead and not behind us-I think that’s an advantage to any Republican or any candidate that’s running. And that’s what we’re hearing from the Trump campaign.”
Richard Vatz, a professor of political persuasion at Towson University, said Republicans seeking office in Maryland-and throughout the nation-should emphasize their support for the party’s core issues but steer clear of Trump’s rhetoric.
“Republicans should emphasize issues without much referencing the president. The quandary is the same for all Republicans nationwide who recognize that they reflect consensual support on most issues — the economy, jobs, crime, foreign policy — but rhetorically linking these issues to the off-putting personality of President Trump is a rhetorical loser. Policies, policies, policies should be the Republican mantra in this year’s elections for purposes of good persuasion and good governing. Larry Hogan is a good model for good governing: reasonable policies without misleading rhetoric. Linking to him may help, but the policy emphasis is paramount.”
Vatz pointed to Republican congressional candidate Klacik’s much-publicized campaign video as an example of policy emphasis over personality emphasis.
“Her ad, “Black Lives Don’t Matter to Democrats,” emphasizes visually the degradation caused by endless Democratic rule and governing diffidence. Moreover, she disparages Democratic nominee Joe Biden who, she says, stereotypes Blacks as unthinking voters, and she praises President Trump’s effective policies with no reference to his personality or personal peccadillos.”
Klacik is running a long-shot campaign against Democratic Rep. Kweisi Mfume for the seventh district seat-which was previously held by the late-Rep. Elijah Cummings.
Klacik spoke at the Republican National Convention on Monday evening. In a two-minute speech, she urged Republicans to reach out to traditionally Democratic voters in inner-cities.